The last of my mother’s effects recently arrived in the post. It’s a queer feeling. Particularly given her wind-up musical jewellery box pings now and again in a slightly creepy fashion.
I haven’t fully investigated the box, but I lost half a day poking about in there remembering gifts given and received, wondering about the provenance of some items and thinking about how little value I place on the things she treasured. Perhaps the most grotesque thing about them is that they aren’t mother’s effects anymore, they have become mother’s realia.
Thoughts about Realia
In the technical terminology of the preservation of historical artefacts, Realia (Italian for the real thing) is stuff used by historic figures or at historic events and therefore worthy of collection. The State Library of Victoria, for example, has Ned Kelly’s armour, Peter Lalor’s pistol from the Eureka Stockade, and John Fawkner’s walking stick among other things.
Of course, there are less significant items too, and you can request a lot of it from storage to look at, but not remove from the library. When I post images of it/them on my blog, I am often tempted to go look at it. Like these bottles from the collection of WWI items relating to William N. Dodds, though the packaging is probably too fragile to be handled by now. Real things in three dimensions evoke different emotions than pictures – you might recall my excitement at touching Annette Kellerman’s book.
I’ve mentioned that my mother was not a historically significant person, just an ordinary one, staunchly dealing with all that life threw at her. Less than six months after her death there is next to no trace of her existence left; the pinging box, gifts she sent that may have survived the years and her nameless face in family photo archives held by other branches of the family.
Perhaps it’s more poignant to me because of our recent trip to Japan, where I carefully selected and bought some beautiful things, including a cobalt blue cut glass beaker, handmade scissors and a wind bell.
I have no idea what will happen to my things when I die. I don’t have any children to treasure them; maybe they’ll become a small State Library realia collection. Will people look at them with the same fascination as Ned Kelly’s armour? Or will they be lost and forgotten? Or maybe sold or destroyed as my significance diminishes and they need space for more important people?
Isn’t it odd to imagine what will happen to your things when you are gone? Have you given any thought to writing a will and providing for them and the people you love?